Monday, June 04, 2007

The Hyperlink as a Mark of Transition


For any regular Internet user, the hyperlink has become ubiquitous, almost rendered invisible through the frequency of their use. Trails in hypertext are meticulously laid out through the seemingly endless streams of data, connected by links imagined as points of intersection in the web. Links are used for reference, for navigation but also extensively in creative production, to fashion hypertextual narratives and images. This paper examines the hyperlink's function as an indicator of transition and site of transformation. It is a brief exploration of the hyperlink as a signifier, as well as a mark both on and in the 'surface' of the digital text.

These strange non-objects that connect information are loaded with meanings and assumptions. This paper considers the hyperlink as a node, a zone, or a mark in a text that indicates a possible point of transition. While masked by regular use and innovative design, the hyperlink is not by its nature transparent – for it to function is has to be a self revealing construct. Hyperlinks are imagined to connect data seamlessly, yet that is exactly what they cannot do, as for them to be usable and useful, they need to highlight transition as well as enable it. The link inhabits the imaginary space between two points of data, it is positioned to be neither an object nor an action, and it signifies without being fully indexical or fully symbolic. In this presentation I hope to briefly explore some of the characteristics of this strange liminal creature that inhabits our screens.

Key words: Hypertext, Hyperlink, Liminal Space, Transition, Mark, Neal von Flue